Post Waterloo: Napoleon’s clandestine messages
Napoleonica. La Revue Volume 37, Issue 2, April 2020, pages 25 to 46
In British custody from July 1815 until May 1821, Napoleon engaged in many different attempts at clandestine communications. A celebrated communication, sold at auction, testifies to attempts to communicate with British liberals whilst on board Bellerophon and Northumberland. Likewise, once on St Helena, Napoleon at Longwood attempted communications with Europe via cryptic messages hidden in the printed press, which the British and Austrian governments did not ‘play well together’ in attempting to spot and intercept. Finally, via his medical attendants, O’Meara, Stokoe and Verling, not to mention captains of storeships, etc, Napoleon would appear to have spent a great deal of money keeping the channels open with his family and supporters elsewhere in the world. Whilst much is made of this secret correspondence, very little of the material survives. This paper is an attempt to bring the surviving texts (and references to absent texts) together and to survey (still relatively young) Napoleon’s continued attempts to effect his repatriation and return to the political life of Europe.